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Recipe: Mayur's Malaysian Nasi Lemak

Last updated on: February 27, 2024 14:22 IST
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Nasi Lemak is a Malaysian coconut milk-infused fragrant rice, served along with fried anchovies, peanuts, sliced cucumbers, boiled eggs and sambal, which is a spicy chilly sauce.

In Malaysia, it may also include additional side dishes like ayam goreng or fried chicken and Beef Rendang. Hailed as the national dish of Malaysia, you'll find it at many street-side stalls and in food courts at malls.

It's often served for breakfast but can be eaten for lunch and dinner as well.

Nasi Lemak

Serves: 4


For the rice

  • 1 cup jasmine rice or any long-grain rice, washed and drained
  • 1 cup coconut milk, canned will do fine
  • 1 pandan leaf or, optionally, use lemon grass
  • Salt to taste, about ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup water

For the sambal sauce

  • 10 dried red chillies
  • 3-4 fresh red chillies
  • 5-7 shallots
  • 2 garlic pods
  • ½ inch-piece ginger
  • 2 tsp belacan or fermented shrimp paste, available online 
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste made from a lime-sized ball of soaked tamarind
  • 1 tbsp sugar or jaggery
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste, about 1 tsp
  • Water

To serve

  • 1 medium-sized cucumber, sliced
  • 2 tbsp fried anchovies (please see the note below)
  • 2 tbsp fried peanuts
  • 4 boiled eggs, peeled
  • 4 pieces Ayam Goreng or Malaysian-style fried chicken, optional (please see the note below)


  • In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the rice, with the coconut milk, water, salt and the pandan leaf, to a boil.
    Cover and simmer for 10 minutes till the rice is completely cooked.
    Take off heat and keep aside.

To make the sambal

  • Soak the dry red chillies in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes.
    Keep aside.
  • Soak the tamarind in bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
    Strain the pulp and keep aside the strained pulp.
  • Grind all the sambal ingredients -- except the tamarind, shrimp paste, salt, oil and the sugar -- to a coarse paste in a food processor or mixer.
  • Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the ground masala.
    Cook till the raw smell disappears.
    Add the tamarind paste, salt, sugar, shrimp paste and mix well.
    Cook till the oil separates and the sauce thickens, for about 7-8 minutes.
    Take off heat.
  • On a plate, serve the sambal with rice, sliced cucumber, fried peanuts, fried anchovies, fried chicken and sliced boiled eggs.
    Serve hot.

Editor's Note: To make fried chicken Malaysian style, try this recipe for Ayam Goreng (external link).

To make fried anchovies use Bethica Das' Nethili or Anchovies Fish Fry.

Pandan leaves are generally sold with vegetable sellers who stock the more exotic vegetables like bok choy, mushrooms etc.

For a vegetarian version of Nasi Lemak, skip the shrimp paste and add finely chopped fried mushrooms into the sambal. Or make vegan ikan bilis (external link) on the side. Serve with fried marinated tofu, fried onions or pan-fried bok choy.

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